Excellence Evolved: CTL Spurs Growth of EA Teaching

Grace Limaye's respect for the art of teaching first took hold at The Episcopal Academy—when she was just a student here.

"What was true 30 years ago is still true today," Limaye reflects. "EA teachers stand apart because they're deeply invested in students' learning and well-being. Our teachers also demonstrate a passion for their subjects and a willingness to grow."

These values, observed and practiced, are the North Star of Limaye's professional life—as a long-time science teacher and now Chair of EA's Middle and Upper School science department.

"Our teaching excellence is integral to who we are, but we're always working to become better educators," explains Limaye. "So when T.J. Locke asked my colleagues and me, 'How can we provide all our teachers with opportunities for continuous growth?', that was the starting point for EA's Center for Teaching and Learning."

Limaye joined a committee of peers to study other CTLs in higher education, at prestigious universities like Harvard, MIT, Penn, Johns Hopkins, and Berkeley. "We modeled our CTL on best practices," she says, "but we tailored it to reflect our teachers' particular strengths, experiences, and goals."

Continuing to support the process until the Center's launch in 2017, Limaye has been excited to see more and more colleagues embrace the new resource. When the pandemic closed the campus in March, CTL proved to be the linchpin of EA's response.

"It was a real game-changer in terms of helping us rapidly and effectively transition to online instruction," recalls Limaye. "For example, when my science faculty designed safe experiments for at-home lab work, which the school generously supported, CTL staff identified the online science teaching resources we needed, including ones with online lab simulations. They made us much better virtual teachers and they were readily available if and when we hit snags or needed any kind of assistance."

This included supporting Limaye and her department in assessing students' learning, engagement, and mastery from afar — key to a series of CTL-designed and -led online teaching certifications last summer. The certifications attracted record levels of faculty participation, including all of Limaye's teachers. "We gained insights about how learning takes place and how memories are stored. Great teaching has to trigger neurotransmitters. Emotion, novelty, and surprise become more important. Understanding this allows us to better support students in applying what they've learned to new situations."

Looking back on all that has transpired and how faculty have pushed themselves to improve their craft, Limaye recognizes "an evolutionary jump" in the quality of EA teaching. "The pandemic was like being hit by a meteor—a disruptive event that made us adapt and grow stronger. After all, CTL is not just about helping us teach online. It makes us better teachers and colleagues every day."
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